Anchoring

Refloating Again

A boat on the beach is always a sad image. Early one Monday morning in June, as I was getting up for work, I saw our friend Jamie had left me a voicemail. He’s a man usually more inclined to use Facebook or texting, so I knew something was amiss.

I feared for Tomahawk.

But to avoid keeping you in suspense, I will say right off that Tomahawk was sitting perfectly safe and sound where we left it. We had recently moved after an uncharacteristically petulant call from the VPD Maritime Unit. They said we were in the swimming area off Kits Beach, but the guy on the phone, allegedly a police officer, didn’t seem to know the anchoring rules or what our permit was for… and he asked if we were using a brick to anchor because we have a spare anchor on our bow… weird.

Anyway, so Jamie’s boat Paramour had landed on the beach exactly where Tomahawk was last fall. I called work to see if I could come in late and they gave me the okay. Jason and I took our shovel down to the beach to dig it out. Jamie’s brother Michael arrived shortly afterward with more shovels and we all madly set to work. As usual, the media came by to make a story our of it and many spectators stopped and chatted. A few people offered to help, all fellow boaters, while the majority simply sipped coffee and stared.

It turned out his anchor hooked into a tire on the bottom of English Bay, leaving the boat free to drag. With so much trash around here, it seems like it was bound to happen eventually. Knowing how easily that can happen is a good motivator for setting your anchor properly (pulling back on it with your motor in reverse) every time.

I had to go to work, but Jason and the others managed to kedge off. Jamie and a couple of others put out three anchors to pull Paramour out at high tide.

Another successful refloating!

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Categories: Anchoring, Friend's Boat, Misadventures, Troubleshooting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our First Sail

Tomahawk has officially belonged to us since last September, but our first sailing outing on our boat didn’t happen until April 21st. As usual, nothing went smoothly, but everything ended well.

Our engine recently decided to stop spitting water out of the cooling system exhaust. I’m taking a basic boat and engine maintenance course through the North Vancouver branch of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron. After I described the problem to him, a marine mechanic who taught part of the course deemed our engine not worth fixing; for the price of repairs, he said, we could replace the whole thing.

Being optimistic sailor types, we ventured out of False Creek by sail and paddle. At first, the sailing was working fine, but then our bow started pulling us around in circles. Our thought is that the headsail was trimmed for a close haul when it should have been on a run based on the wind direction. After some frantic maneuvering where we seemed to be losing steerage, we pulled out the paddles we’d bought recently. The current was in our favour (we planned it that way), so we rode it out to English Bay.

Yes, we got some strange looks and some people asking if we needed help, but we were quite happy to do it that way. Eventually, we got under the bridges and out into the bay, where we popped our sails back up and went for a glorious ride.

The winds were picking up, which was both exhilarating and scary. Tomahawk was heeling over pretty far, but I wasn’t sure if that was normal. Jason thought it was and I think he was right.

After our joyride, we were planning to anchor in the bay. We had bought an extra length of heavy chain, so as to avoid a repeat of last fall. No more groundings for us, please! However, we hadn’t rigged up the new chain to the old rode, or even figured out exactly how we were going to set it up.

We hove to, which is a maneuver that basically consists of putting your sails at odds so that they work against each other. Essentially, you park the boat. (Obviously, the current continues to play, but if you have enough sea room, you don’t have to worry about hitting things.)

On that day, the current was strong and pushing us out to sea, which was very distracting. Freighters were anchored all around us and we didn’t want to hit one. Also, the wind was getting stronger and stronger and there didn’t appear to be any other boats out – just one crazy windsurfer who seemed to be loving the high winds!

To make a long story short, we had no steerage and ended up dropping our sails to keep ourselves from moving too fast into a freighter. Without a working engine, it had become impossible to get into the anchorage and we ended up getting a tow from the Coast Guard. They were friendly and helpful and left us at the Granville Docks. Our friend Jamie towed us the rest of the way into False Creek, where we reanchored pretty much where we were before.

We talked to a few people and took stock of our mistakes and what happened. As it turns out, the growth on the bottom of our boat seems to have played a role in loss of steerage. At the same time, apparently it’s just really hard to sail into that anchorage. Plus we had the wind coming at us and not enough momentum to tack properly to get to where we wanted to be.

It was a great learning experience. Though nerve-racking at the time, it’s a great feeling to be out on your own boat, sailing around. Even when you get stuck out there.

Categories: Anchoring, Misadventures | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Hole in the Water, or How to Refloat a Boat

The trip to the Vancouver Police property office happened in the freezing rain. The dinghy was in pieces, with the floorboards removed “for easier transport” and it was covered in grime. (See this post to find out why our Zodiac was there.)

It was so dirty that we realized we couldn’t take it in a taxi. Jason had to run off to Home Depot to get a tarp and some rope while I waited with our stuff. It wasn’t really a waste of time and money, because you can never have too many tarps or too much spare rope, right? Once we had it wrapped up, we managed to get a cab and stick the thing into our storage room in the building’s basement. It smelled of dead sea creatures, but neither of us had enough ambition to wash it off.

We thought retrieving the dinghy was the hard part.

On Tuesday while at work, I got a voicemail from the VPD Marine Unit. In the high winds, Tomahawk’s anchor line broke and the boat washed up on the beach – on the opposite side of the bay from where it was anchored (see map below). They said it was undamaged, as far as they could tell, other than the missing anchor and chain.

When my heart stopped pounding, I asked to leave work early. My boss is a boat owner, so he was very understanding and my coworkers were great too. It was dark when I got down to Sunset Beach, but it was still easy to spot the mast pointing through the air toward the shore at a dysfunctional angle.

Grounded Sailboat

Tomahawk Grounded at Sunset Beach (Photo: Nigs Donald)

The cops had placed yellow tape around the area, but they warned me that people might try to loot the boat. I had no idea how to proceed. Jason was working until midnight, so he had to get a play-by-play through my frantic text messages.

The constable recommended coming back at high tide early the next morning, but I didn’t have a plan yet. I had called a marine assistance company, but the guy quoted me at $2000 for a tow. He later reneged and said it would be more like $5-600, but I had already moved on to another course of action, which was to frantically scream for help via Facebook, the Vancouver boating and sailing meetup group, and text messages.

Amazingly, a whole slough of people responded, including some total strangers. Jason and I went to a boating knot tying class earlier this year as part of a local meetup group’s activities. A few people from the group came out to help, which was excellent, because they actually had some idea what they were doing. It was inspiring how many other friends also offered their assistance.

Jason and I spent Wednesday morning buying a new anchor at Wright Mariner, where Steve, a former fifteen-year liveaboard, felt so bad for us that he gave us ten percent off and some useful advice. Jason had to work from four to midnight, so I headed to West Marine to pick up some chain and rope (not cheap!).

The evening high tide turned out to be grossly insufficient to do anything with the boat, although people had dug a hole in front of the keel to prevent it from digging back in. Someone showed me a tide app that indicated the following morning’s high tide would be a meter higher, so we decided to reconvene at 5:45 am.

I had bought cheap rain pants at Canadian Tire, but they ripped when I got in the car first thing in the morning. My advice? Don’t go for the cheapest option. Once they had a hole, it kept growing larger and larger, until they were hanging off of me in shreds. I did keep them on though, because they were more or less intact for about three inches above my boots, which is where it mattered the most. It looked pretty funny though.

Our refloating adventure wasn’t without its mishaps (e.g. soaked feet) and personality clashes, of course, but by rowing out in our dinghy to drop the new anchor at a right angle to Tomahawk, we were able to create some leverage on the boat. We also tried first to keep the halyard (line for raising the sail) tied to a log on the beach, so that Tomahawk would stay well on its side. This was to prevent the keel from digging back in to the ground when it started to move away. A military spotter who lent a hand told us that the incoming tide would fill in the hole dug the previous day for that purpose, so we needed to take another tack.

Unfortunately, having the boat tied to shore with people hauling on the line to keep it heeled over created a pull in the wrong direction. Another total stranger, Jamie, happened to be passing by in his dinghy with an outboard. He offered to lend a hand and three guys, including Jason, sat in his dinghy to pull the mast in the same direction as the anchor line – in other words, towards the water, where we wanted the boat to go.

Meanwhile, on deck, I was busy with one other person hauling on the anchor with the aid of a winch handle. The rode was wrapped around the winch drum (essentially a device for cranking) and we were able to haul Tomahawk back into the water by pulling it over onto the other side, keel to shore. Now the keel wouldn’t dig in and the hull sat farther out from the sand, in deeper water.

“We’re losing tide!” I kept hearing. I wasn’t sure if the boat was going to make it out before the water level sank too low again. Our high tide was the highest we would have for the next week or so, at least, so I was thinking we might need to pay for a tow after all.

Then suddenly Tomahawk leveled out, sending everything crashing below deck. We were floating happily in the water again! We kept cranking on the rode to get as far out as possible, so that it wouldn’t get stuck again.

After a scramble back to shore to collect our stuff, most people went on their way. Sadly, I didn’t get to say goodbye to most of them or thank them for their amazing help, so I will do it here: Thank you, Michael, Richard, Star, the other Michael, Jamie, Sarah, and Jay. And to those I had on standby: Claudy and co, Emily, Mike, and Jaynie.

With sore muscles but a happy crew, Jason motored us into False Creek through a sunlit, sparkly morning. Jamie stuck around to help us pick a spot to drop anchor close to the Aquabus ferry dock where we were before. He lives on a 46-footer called Paramour and has logged over 40,000 miles of water throughout his cruising days. A teacher by training and a generous person by nature, he has offered to show us the ropes in exchange for food and drink.

Now I know why they call a boat a hole in the water that you throw money into. The new anchor, rode, rubber boots, swivel, shackle, and other necessary odds and ends gouged a huge chunk into our bank account. But it could have been worse: the rocks could have gouged a huge chunk into Tomahawk’s hull.

Richard, a long-term sailor and a natural teacher as well, checked over the hull and keel at low tide. He pronounced them free of cracks, which is excellent. However, last time I was on the boat with Jamie, we found some water in two port compartments. He suspects a water tank line leak or water that crept in through the cockpit when the boat was on its side, not a hull breach. Let’s hope he’s right.

In the end, we discovered the kindness of the boating community, as well as the VPD Marine Unit, who were professional and helpful throughout the whole ordeal. We learned a few technical things. We experienced the drastic difference the tide makes, and we were able to enjoy the immense gratitude that comes from being so lucky. Out of the four boats that ran aground, ours was the only survivor, thanks in large part to all those who came to our aid.

*The boat drifted from Point A to Point B on the map below, through the water, of course.

Categories: Anchoring, Troubleshooting | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Anchoring Fee: $400 Per Week

On the way home from work, I overheard two men chatting on their way to a hockey game. Whenever the home team plays at the stadium here, the Skytrain fills with blue and white jerseys, along with the odd red, yellow, and black one from the Canucks’ past.

The men’s conversation had little to do with hockey. One man said to the other, “All the boats are cleared out of the harbour now, because they charge four hundred dollars for a week of anchoring. That’s sixty dollars a night!” As we passed the “harbour” in question (actually False Creek), he pointed out the distinct absence of anchored crafts.

Although Tomahawk is still out in the Pirate Bay, this news alarmed me. At the same time, I knew I had seen at least two boats, one sail and one power, anchored this morning. So I was mostly confused. Maybe they’re creating a new fee that hasn’t been implemented yet, or just came into effect today, I thought. After all, they are moving toward disallowing anchoring in Burrard Inlet, which sucks because that’s where we planned to anchor if I get into Simon Fraser University for my master’s degree in social anthropology starting next year.

Since getting a boat, I have learned that a lot of people consider anchored vessels “eyesores,” although those same people don’t seem too concerned about the huge tankers that sit out in English Bay for all to enjoy. See, those are good for the economy, but sailboats are more self-sufficient. Except that sailors, including liveaboards, contribute to the economy by buying food and gas and parts and other stuff, just like anybody else. I don’t know.

Then there are the many ugly buildings, parked cars, and trash bins that litter the city, among other potential “eyesores.” Don’t get me wrong; Vancouver is a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and awesome architecture. My point is that I don’t understand how small boats are seen as problematic and obstructing the view, while the municipal government is considering putting in 70-storey buildings in the West End. Go figure.

As it turns out, the city website still says that anchoring permits in False Creek are free. So either the winds of change are blowing, or the dude on the Skytrain has no clue what he’s talking about. My money is on the latter.

False Creek

False Creek is full of all kinds of boats! And the stadium in the background is full of hockey fans!

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Maiden Voyage to the Pirate Bay

Okay, Tomahawk has been around since the seventies, so it’s not exactly a maiden voyage. But it was for us!

On Monday, we got our informal sailing teacher Steve to help us haul up the anchor, get the engine going, and go for a little ride. Our False Creek permit expires tomorrow, so we had to find a new place to keep the boat until we can get a new one.

Jason and I got to the boat at noon and cleaned off some more bird poop. Unfortunately, it hadn’t rained enough to have any cleansing impact on the sail cover. I did the dirty work this time, since he did it last time. We sacrificed one of the SOS pads left on the boat by Danny. We were contemplating taking the sail cover home to stick in the wash, but we’ll have to work out the logistics of that. Don’t really want to leave the sail uncovered, especially if the diarrhea bird decides to come back!

Anyway, Steve checked our oil and spark plugs, which all looked fine. The oil wasn’t completely black, he said, which means it needs to be changed soon. We’ll keep that in mind. I haven’t change oil myself, but I helped someone do it for their car once. So I know it’s a pretty simple task, really.

Steve took us to Granville Island, where we loaded up our jerry cans with gas. It cost less than $40 and we expect that to last us several months, especially if we use the boat as little as we are now. With the weather getting worse, that seems pretty likely.

After gassing up, we headed to our new anchorage, which is much less sheltered than False Creek. Steve refers to it as the Pirate Bay, so we’ll call it that. A few other boats were anchored in the area and we had to squeeze in between them. Our anchor weighs a ton, probably way more than necessary to hold the boat in place, which is good. Instead of the recommended 5:1 ratio of rode to water depth, we ended up with about 2.5:1 to keep our swing radius to a minimum (as explained in this post on anchoring technique). I’m hoping it’s fine, but Steve texted me today that we should expect a small craft warning for Saturday. That means high winds potentially strong enough to push Tomahawk onto the beach or into another boat. We don’t want either scenario.

If we do have to move the boat, we have a problem arising from our ongoing work scheduling conflict. Jason works days and times when I don’t and vice versa. On both Friday and Saturday, for example, I work 10 to 6 and he works 4 to midnight. So yeah. We’ll see. Maybe Steve will move it with one of us as crew.

Meanwhile, we have yet to put up the sails. Our trip from False Creek to the Pirate Bay was done entirely under engine power. That’s because you’re not allowed to put up your sails in the creek, from what I understand.

Hopefully next time, we can finally catch some wind.

Sailboat in Fog

Tomahawk in False Creek

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started, Legalities | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Let Your Boat Go Walkabout!

As a writer by nature and training (among other things), I can’t help but notice how things are written. This is true of blogs, assembly instructions, cereal boxes, and posters, as well as books (memoirs tend to be the worst!). I even texted a friend once just to tell him about a spelling mistake on a Heinz ketchup bottle. Yes, I have nerdy friends, but then, if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them (although we have readers all over the globe, which is awesome! Thanks, guys!).

The NauticEd online sailing course I’ve been taking very slowly for over a year has a few writing gems in it. It’s not terribly written. In fact, most of it is quite clear and easy to digest, even the complex stuff about electrical systems and navigation techniques. The writer had a sense of humour too, which makes it enjoyable. This is my favorite sentences so far: “Ensuring that your boat is in the same place you left it is a very important skill.”

That worthy advice comes from the module on mooring and anchoring.

Where's my boat?

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Dropping Anchor

For the past few days, my sailing obsession has shifted from toilets to dropping anchor. This skill will be vital if we ever want to move the boat from its current location – which we have to do by October 30th anyway.

Luckily, the internet knows everything. However, reading about it is never the same as doing it. I could read about building a spacecraft, but that doesn’t mean I can then go out and make one.

Dropping Anchor

Then again, anchoring doesn’t seem overly complicated. From what I understand, the most important things to know are what kind of bottom you are anchoring in (e.g. soft mud, grass, rock) and how much swing radius you need. Swing radius refers to a circle around where your anchor is dropped, where your boat could shift to if the wind or current changes. As you let out more rode, your radius increases.

If you’re the only one in the anchorage, you don’t need to worry too much, but if there are other boats around, you have to keep an eye out for their swing radius and make sure they don’t overlap too much.

Not all boats move the same way, either. Powerboats, monohull sailboats, and multihulls like catamarans and trimarans behave differently in the wind and current. So it’s best to anchor among boats that are like yours. I guess that means we need to stick with smaller monohulls.

So you pick your anchoring spot, start lowering your anchor off the bow (not all at once or the rope will tangle), and slowly back up your boat. You should point into the wind or current, whichever is stronger, and let your craft drift backwards. If necessary, a little engine power can help set the anchor properly.

In softer bottoms, you also need to give it some time to settle properly.

Of course, there are a million variations on this and so much depends on the boat and the anchorage, as well as the anchor’s weight and other properties. In some cases, you might even tie the stern (back) of the boat to a tree on land, to keep it from swinging around too much.

Or, in some areas, you can forget the anchor and simply hook up to a mooring buoy, as shown in this Sailing Magazine video.

We’ll have to check out the nautical charts on the boat to start learning about local bottom features around here.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends.

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Our Local Chandler

Jason had to work today, so I decided to pop into our local chandler. Then I realized that today we were supposed to get an anchoring permit (or move our boat – haha).

First, I took a leisurely bike ride to the dollar store, where I picked up some measuring tape and an airtight, waterproof storage bag. Then I went up to Wright Mariner Supply & Yacht Services near our apartment. I just wanted to inquire about a composting toilet, but Steve, the store manager, gave me a wealth of useful advice about a lot of other things as well. He lived on a 30-footer for fourteen years, so I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about!

I learned about a couple more marine head options, including one that uses UV rays to destroy all the bacteria before discharging the waste into the water. Amazing! We’ll probably stick with something a little less high-tech, but it’s good to know what’s out there. The UV one needs electricity, which we’re hoping to avoid, since power will be such a scarce resource on board.

Steve also mentioned that diesel is better than propane, as far as heaters are concerned. (I’m sure the same applies to stoves, which makes me question our propane stove.) The reason he gave is that propane puts a lot of moisture into the air. Added to the moisture coming from our breath (we exhale a liter of water a day, he said!), it can contribute to mold and other issues. Maybe we should just go for the wood-burning heater he showed me, if we want to go really DIY.

Of course, diesel has the added benefit of being easily converted to biodiesel.

Choosing the type of fuel for our heater is just a drop in the bucket list, so to speak.

At some point during our conversation, it struck me that Danny’s anchoring permit for Tomahawk expired today. We were supposed to get one in our name, so I said a speedy farewell to Steve and raced across the Burrard Bridge to Granville Island. For some reason, I was thinking the False Creek Yacht Club was there, but it turned out not to be. That’s where Danny said to get the permit. By this time it was almost five o’clock, so I was a little concerned the offices might be closed for the day. I called 411 to get their number and the woman I spoke to said I could get the permit online. Which is great, except I could’ve stayed longer at the ship chandler! Oh well. Lessons learned.

When I got home, I filled out the extremely simple online application and received the permit in my email within a few minutes. Nothing like technology to make things easy.

We will have to move Tomahawk by October 30th. That means we’ll need to figure out how to anchor as well as where to put it for a week. There might be a spot available in the “Pirate’s Bay” off Kitsilano Beach, which is just a bit farther west of where the boat is now.

 

Categories: Anchoring, Getting Started, Legalities | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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